First of all, thank you for being here. This journey has been a long one, one full of beauty, pain, and growth. My number one priority is being completely transparent with you, which is why I want to share our story.
Fashion and health have always been my two greatest passions in life. I spent time in fashion design school before I pursued my degrees in the health field. Starting a clothing company is something I've always dreamed of, and Akasha Sun was born from this dream of mine.
Akasha Sun began in 2013 in a small mudroom. The first things I dyed were yoga pants. The yoga pants to the right were the very first pair I made and sold on Etsy. Etsy was a different place back then, and I don't think many people were creating tie dye yoga clothing at the time. While I was making clothing on the side, I was also working a full-time job and taking full-time holistic medicine classes.
I ended up moving my dyeing operations to my bathroom floor so I could use my tub and sink. I was so happy I was getting orders regularly on Etsy along with landing a drop shipping contract with a yoga clothing retailer. Even though there was a lot of good that came from being so busy, I also remember breaking down on my bathroom floor crying many nights because I couldn't keep up with my schedule anymore.
Initially, my business model involved creating a select few styles and taking custom orders off of those styles. This tactic didn't work out longterm because it took too much dye and a lot of clothes had to be discounted or discarded because they didn't match close enough.
To be honest, I knew nothing about sustainability at the time. I cared a lot about the environment, but there weren't any real resources back then about eco-friendly clothing or business practices. Slow fashion definitely wasn't trending back then! I am grateful I decided from the very beginning to use natural fiber fabric and non-toxic dyes.
When it came to running a business, I had no clue what I was doing. I still remember sitting in the office where I got my LLC established like a deer in headlights. I had to teach myself everything from doing my own business taxes to dealing with customer issues.
Taking a wrong turn
My ignorance in business was a result of being too busy to stop and realize what was happening. I had a full-time job to carry me through financially, so everything I sold from Akasha Sun felt like a bonus. I felt really alone because I knew no one that had a clothing business. I learned everything on my own, and often times the hard way.
After breaking it off with the yoga website I was drop shipping for, I realized I needed help. Thankfully my mom started getting involved in the creative dyeing aspect of the company so I could focus on the business and marketing side. We needed to get our brand figured out. At that time, social media wasn't really used for businesses aside from Facebook pages. I didn't have the marketing budget to advertize, so all of our customers had to find us through Etsy.
I decided to hire a marketer that was highly recommended by a friend. I used half of my savings/profits to hire him. He really got me pumped about my company, comparing us to well-known yoga brands and claiming we could easily get to that level in no time. I really wanted to believe him. He suggested removing the "hand-dyed" aspect of our company, and focus on printing on polyester fabrics in a Chinese factory.
He also recommended I join a local well-known yoga festival and be the number one sponsor. That meant using the rest of my savings/profits to make that happen.
When all was said and done with the marketing team I hired, I realized I had spent all my money on a spiral bound notebook. They had basically printed off statistics of well-known yoga clothing companies and proposed I re-branded to emulate them. I was more confused than ever about my vision for the company. Why was I doing this? So I could create another pair of plastic yoga leggings made in a Chinese factory? It left a really bad taste in my mouth, and I decided to part ways with the marketing team I invested so much in.
The last thing I wanted to do at this point was to do the yoga festival, but there was no backing out. My mom and I worked day and night (when we weren't working our jobs) to make clothing for the festival. My boyfriend (now husband) also helped me rebrand and create marketing materials for the event.
The amount of time and energy we collectively put into the preparation for the festival was crazy. It was all happening at the same time as my mom was in the process of closing her family art gallery after 50 years in business. I was also just starting my relationship with my [now] husband, and the company had barely any funds left. I hoped this festival would redeem us after everything that had happened. Unfortunately that wasn't the case.
Everything that could have gone wrong on that trip did. Despite being the top sponsor for the event, we were treated like strangers and there was little to no promotion of our brand. I think we sold a dozen items total from our tent, and only one (amazing) instructor wore our clothing during her classes.
I was bitter about that period for a long time. I lost an incredible sum of money from both the marketer and festival, and at that point I was ready to pack it all up and end it.
Finding Our Identity
I moved from Colorado to California in 2016 for a year. During that time I fell into a bit of a depression. The clothes from the festival sat in bins unopened for months. Nothing new was created during that time. It wasn't until finances became super strained that I decided to reopen my Etsy store. I figured I could sell off my inventory and then close it.
In late 2017 my husband and I moved to Arizona so it would be easier for him to find a job and a cheaper place to rent. I decided to try something different with Akasha Sun. I wanted to do more of what I was seeing in stores - muted colors and designs. My mom in Colorado created a select few variations, and I created a pre-sale event. I thought this is what people wanted to see. I got a few boutiques interested in our items, but nothing really came to fruition.
We had lost the magic. I had taken away the energy and creative freedom of my mom's tie dyeing. I was trying to fit us into a box that we were never supposed to fit in.
I called my mom up one day and told her that I was going about this completely wrong. She needed to feel free to create beautiful designs. So from there forward I told her to make whatever she desired. That's when the magic really started happening again. I worried about the business side of things and she took full creative license.
Around the time the pandemic hit, I fell deeply in love with helping the planet. I knew Akasha Sun stood for more than just clothes. I realized we can make a real difference in the fashion industry. Not only in reducing our footprint greatly, but also putting forth efforts to make things better.
So many yoga and activewear clothing companies are choosing to make their things out of synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon. These types of fabrics are not only extremely harmful for the environment, but they are also toxic to our skin. There are now better options that are sustainable and feel amazing. We have always made our clothes with sustainable cotton, but now we are transitioning to an even better fabric. Stay tuned for more info on that!
We also produce our clothing ethically, supporting fair pay and good working environments. Our packing and marketing materials are also eco-friendly! Even though all of these efforts mean a smaller profit margin for us, it's worth it!
[My mom] Jeanne isn't throwing clothes into giant bins of dye or trying to replicate past designs. She lovingly handles every piece, just like a work of art. Her passion runs so deep, and her excitement to create is never ending. We love what we do and what we represent. We have found our identity, and the Akasha Sun journey lives on.
Most of all, we couldn't do this without YOU. Your support is everything and we love that we get to grow alongside you.
So Much Love,
- Genelle + Jeanne
Akasha Sun donates every month to Child Fund International. We will be partnering with the World Wildlife Foundation later this year to reduce plastics in our oceans. Join us in the effort to reduce the use of plastic in clothing manufacturing by choosing plant-based clothing instead.